Defective insulin signaling pathway and increased glycogen synthase kinase-3 activity in the brain of diabetic mice: parallels with Alzheimer's disease and correction by insulin

J Neurosci Res. 2008 Nov 15;86(15):3265-74. doi: 10.1002/jnr.21787.


We have evaluated the effect of peripheral insulin deficiency on brain insulin pathway activity in a mouse model of type 1 diabetes, the parallels with Alzheimer's disease (AD), and the effect of treatment with insulin. Nine weeks of insulin-deficient diabetes significantly impaired the learning capacity of mice, significantly reduced insulin-degrading enzyme protein expression, and significantly reduced phosphorylation of the insulin-receptor and AKT. Phosphorylation of glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK3) was also significantly decreased, indicating increased GSK3 activity. This evidence of reduced insulin signaling was associated with a concomitant increase in tau phosphorylation and amyloid beta protein levels. Changes in phosphorylation levels of insulin receptor, GSK3, and tau were not observed in the brain of db/db mice, a model of type 2 diabetes, after a similar duration (8 weeks) of diabetes. Treatment with insulin from onset of diabetes partially restored the phosphorylation of insulin receptor and of GSK3, partially reduced the level of phosphorylated tau in the brain, and partially improved learning ability in insulin-deficient diabetic mice. Our data indicate that mice with systemic insulin deficiency display evidence of reduced insulin signaling pathway activity in the brain that is associated with biochemical and behavioral features of AD and that it can be corrected by insulin treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism*
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 / metabolism*
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin / pharmacology
  • Learning / drug effects
  • Learning / physiology
  • Mice
  • Phosphorylation
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • tau Proteins / metabolism


  • Insulin
  • tau Proteins
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3